Jeremy Spitzberg

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First XI: Early Week 25 Picks

Tuesday, February 04, 2014


What an "interesting" weekend and fantasy game week! Galin has the details covered in his weekend wrap-up.

I had Robin van Persie and Jay Rodriguez scroe goals for my fantasy team but fail to return double digits. Both Manchester clubs lost; Liverpool dropped points; West Ham won with what is very much their Plan A, but lost that option with Carroll's red card; Sunderland beat Newcastle in yet another derby match that failed to meet it's blood-and-thunder reputation (for better or for worse), and on and on.

This column is nominally a knee-jerk reaction to the week that was, with a cursory look at the fixtures to come. However, I'm well into the second or third generation of my team after a quick barn door exercise after Manchester City/Chelsea.

So let's take a look at where I went, where am I, and if I'm moving forwards or not. For clarification, I'm listing the price at which I own the player as discounts can impact which players I want to keep and which players I'm then able to afford.

1. Robin van Persie - £15.77M - So frustrating. That will refer to Manchester United as a whole, and Van Persie in particular. He started and scored against Cardiff City, but didn't last more than an hour on the pitch. Last week, there were rumours that he wasn't going to be fit enough to start again, and I know that that scared off some fantasy managers. He did start - as did Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata - and he scored another early goal. However, not only did he not last the full 90, but his only other contribution to the match were three fouls committed. I was hoping for so much more! Maybe I'll just have to wait one more week though, as Fulham pull their creaking, cracking bus up to Old Trattford. Fulham held on against Southampton for a large portion of that match before capitulating and allowing three goals without reply. Manchester United certainly need a win - and a big one would do much for morale at the club- and at the moment, Fulham are one of the most obliging sides in the League. The only caveat would be that Cardiff City is just as bad, and while United beat them, it certainly wasn't emphatic.

Check out the rest of our Week 23 Fantasy Premier League Coverage: Nik's Picks | The Free Kick | First XI

2. Luis Suarez - £19.70M - The second merely mortal performance from Suarez in the last three. Meanwhile, Daniel Sturridge is tearing it up for Liverpool and looks the more in-form of the two. It's certainly not at the point where I'm looking to sell. Let's not be crazy. But against Arsenal, even at Anfield, I'm not likely to want to field both (a lot of fantasy teams have Steven Gerrard as well, which will be food for thought) and I'll have to think about whether or not to give Suarez the coffee cup (that's the captaincy for those of you unfamiliar with instant messanger's conversion of "(c)" into a coffee cup icon).

3. Juan Mata - £12.26M - This spot is on it's third iteration. Originally it was Stevan Jovetic, picked up after his nice cameo appearance against Chelsea. City are travelling to Norwich, where they score goals for fun and Jovetic may have earned a start with his display. However, it's not a sure thing, and there are other options. I pretty quickly looked towards Christian Benteke. He's in-form, and hosting West Ham who were twice as likely to ship three as they were to keep a clean sheet (with no option in between). However, they've earned two clean sheets on the bounce, and Aston Villa have struggled at home when clubs sit deep against them. So to the weekend's best matchup we turn up Juan Mata. He's been good, if not great in his first two Manchester United starts, and he's still mis-categorized as a striker in the fantasy game. But hosting Fulham there's probably no downside to this pick, with lots of upside if he can score or assist on a goal or two. Wayne Rooney would be another obvious route into this match, but he's dropping into midfield as much as Mata, and is a more expensive striker option. On balance, I'll go with the Spainard.

4. Adam Lallana - £19.59M - Lallana was in my team last week up until Friday. I traded him down to Hatem Ben Arfa to move from Jovetic (see above) to JRod. That swap cost me 15 points as Lallana matched JRod for goals, but added phantom points where JRod took them off the table. I'm selling Santi Cazorla in this spot, so the money is about even, but the matchup (Saints at home to poor-traveling Stoke v. Cazorla at Liverpool) is heavily in Lallana's favor.

5. Adam Johnson - £16.70M - Nothing spectacular since his hat-trick, but he's scored in each match to make him value for money. A midfielder in form, playing in a front three and taking set pieces. What's not to love?

6. Ashley Young - £8.90M - By the time you read this, blog-favorite Ashley Young (BFAY) will probably be Oscar. And then back. And likely back and forth all week. I like Young's potential against Fulham and he'll get set piece duty if he starts. But will he start? It might be Adnan Januzaj back in the side this weekend, or even Rooney or Danny Welbeck shifted out wide. There's enough uncertainty that I'm lilely to stay away. Even if he's the incumbent in the spot at the moment.

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7. Christian Eriksen - £13.14M - Cooled off considerably after a great run. The fixtures haven't been in his favor, and I'm not sure that hosting Everton is any better than visiting Hull. I'm willing to give him another home game to justify his selection, especially with a few weeks of easier matches - @Newcastle, @Norwich, and Cardiff City - on the horizon.

8. Ryan Bertrand - £1.00M - Bertrand got promoted into my team from the bench after Mark Hudson missed out with a hamstring injury. Nno one is expecting Villa to keep clean sheets, but Bertrand is earning enough phantom points to be valuable, especially for a buck. This week, hosting West Ham, seems like as good a time as any to start him.

9. Nemanja Vidic - £8.50M - Back from suspension, and persumably straight back into the starting eleven alongside Chris Smalling with Jonny Evans and Phil Jones having injured themselves against Stoke City.

10. Branislav Ivanovic - £11.09M - My other barn door pick up on Monday. Ivanovic had the freedom of the right flank against Manchester City and put it to good use, scoring against them. It may not be that simple against Newcastle, but at home, with the Magpies struggling and without their best players, another Chelsea clean sheet seems inevitable. (FYI, that is in no way an attempted reverse jinx. Honest.)

11. Joe Hart - £9.94M - He's a fixture in my team for the simple reason that I trust him. I don't necessarily trust the defence in front of him, and against Chelsea they were all at sea. But even losing 0-1, he put up positive points. And you know that 9 matches out of 10, he'll earn win points even if he won't keep a clean sheet in that many matches.

On the bench this week will be: Lewis Holtby - £4.38M - growing into the number 10 role for a Fulham side that desperately need him to be good.
Fabio - £3.29M - seems a starter on a Cardiff City side that desperately need him to be good.
Martin Kelly - £1.63M - Cheaper than Massaido Haidara, and getting as many minutes. #faintpraise
Gerhard Tremmel - £1.00M - £1, and starting for now. Just in case.



Jeremy Spitzberg writes about fantasy soccer (football) and is a Rotoworld contributor. You can find him on Twitter @JSpitzberg.
Email :Jeremy Spitzberg





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